I love Avantasia. The fact that Tobias Sammet decided to take this spectacle out on the road for the first time some 10 years ago is really cool – and a bit unexpected. I mean, it must cost a fortune to put all these musicians on a pay-roll, especially as Avantasia hardly plays arenas. I have seen them live on two occasions in the past, both times at Sweden Rock Festival. Both times, Avantasia delivered the goods brilliantly but the fact is, those were festival gigs which means shorter play-time which means that Avantasia had to cut their set for more than an hour. So when it was announced that they would play Stockholm on their Moonglow world tour, me and my wife bought tickets as soon as they were released. So what would turn into a 23 song, three hour plus show was lying in wait for us – and my expectations were high. And then some.
With Tobias on this tour are a whole bunch of quality singers. Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids), Jorn Lande, Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche), Eric Martin (Mr Big), Bob Catley (Magnum) and the somewhat unknown Adrienne Cowan (Seven Spires) are all world-class singers and guitarist Oliver Hartmann will take on the absent Michael Kiske’s parts. Avantasia opens the show with no less than four tunes from the latest album, a brave move indeed. ”Ghost In The Moon” has Sammet singing alone and even though I have aimed some criticism against him as a singer, his voice improves with age and live it comes out more natural than in the studio for some reason. ”Starlight” brings out Ronnie Atkins and with him at the mike, you can’t go wrong. Atkins stays on for ”Book Of Shallows”, a tune that also welcomes the amazing Adrienne Cowan, a woman that sings with intensity and a broad range. If the audience might have been a bit apprehensive at first, by now most were onboard.
The mini-opera ”The Raven Child”, over 10 minutes long, is a song that runs the risk of being a bit overmuch live but tonight it worked like a charm. Cowen stays on, impressively taking Mille Petrozza’s (Kreator) parts and Jorn Lande, in a new, shorter – and to be honest a bit dorky – haircut comes along for the ride and proves that he’s an extraordinaire vocalist, something he keeps showing for the amazing and dark Ghostlights ballad ”Lucifer”. By now, the night has been won by Avantasia and with the looks of the crowd, I’m sure most will agree on that. There have been rumours flying around for years now that former Queensrÿche voice Geoff Tate’s voice is just a shadow of it former self. Well, Tate comes out and gives us ”Alchemy” and ”Invincible” from the new album and shows us that his voice still is in killer shape. I haven’t seen the guy live for ages but he still sings with conviction and the man’s range is still amazing. What a performance.
The two Metal Opera albums are records I hardly ever listen to, too many Power Metal vibes for my taste, but played live the songs works a lot better. ”Reach Out For The Light”, in all its Helloweenness, is a song I always liked though and live, Oliver Hartmann really nails Michael Kiske’s parts – a highlight of the show, no doubt. Another highlight is ”Moonglow” where miss Adrienne Cowan takes Candice Night’s parts with all the glory. Cowan might be a new name to many but after this tour, that might change. It really should because both her voice and stage presence is awesome. The Michael Sambello cover ”Maniac” might be a fun thing to do for the band but in all honesty, the Flashdance tune isn’t really a good fit in the show even though Eric Martin sings the living daylight out of it. There are so many great Avantasia songs out there that a cover of any kind is a waste of original song time here. This goes into the minus account.
But when Martin takes Klaus Meine’s parts in the brilliant ”Dying For An Angel”, the roof is about to lift. A great song with an enormous refrain that’s impossible not to love and a must at every Avantasia show. Bob Catley comes out for the Magnum meets Avantasia melodic rocker ”Lavender” and ”The Story Ain’t Over” from the Lost In Space E.P. The last few times I have witnessed Magnum in concert, Catley’s voice has been somewhat strained but this night, Catley shines and his whole presence gives the concert a whole new atmosphere and dynamic. When Catley is this good, he’s still a world-class vocalist. After that, Jorn is back for the majestic ”The Scarecrow”. This epic number is the tune that got me into Avantasia and probably my favorite Avantasia tune, if I had to chose one under gun-point. Live, it’s a monster and Jorn totally owns both the stage and the song here. Fabulous.
There are better songs on Angel Of Babylon than ”Promised Land”, but to see and hear Jorn Lande and Eric Martin break through this fast Metal stomper together makes that a non-matter. The fact that Sammet leaves the stage shows just how down to earth and ego-less the guy really is. And they make a great version of it here. Sammet stays in wings for another uptempo Metal track, ”Twisted Mind”, where Lande makes room for Geoff Tate and with Martin he makes the tune a real ass-kicker. Tate then takes on ”Avantasia” with Sammet back on stage. Again, it comes from an album that’s not a favorite of mine but this night, I love the tune. I mean, it was always a good tune but tonight it’s a monster. Lande and Ronnie Atkins then takes the stage to build another Nordic union (sic!) and the ten-minute epic melodic hard-rocker ”Let The Storm Descent Upon You” is a clear winner this evening.
”Master Of The Pendulum” from Ghostlights is a surprise, a kind of an obscure middle-track albeit a killer one. Originally sung by Nightwish’s Marco Hietala it’s tonight bettered by the mighty Atkins who brings new life to an already brilliant song. ”Shelter From The Rain” is to me an ok track but it’s really cool to see and hear how these songs grows in a live environment. This Scarecrow Metal bouncer is here sung by the great Bob Catley – who proves that he too can sing Metal like the best of them – and backup vocalist Herbie Langhans, who takes on Michael Kiske’s parts – and does so with all the glory. ”Mystery Of A Blood Red Rose” is one of my all time favorite Avantasia songs but I must say that with the addition of Bob Catley – it’s only Sammet singing on the record – the song gets even better. I sang my lungs out. Sort of. For the final – before the encore, that is – song ”Lost In Space”, Sammet returns to the stage and takes the tune himself. A great song and the obvious closer.
However, no show is complete without an encore. The beautiful miss Cowan takes on ”Farewell” from the debut album, originally sung by Sharon Del Adel (Within Temptation) – and she totally nails it. To me, ”Farewell” is a bit of a throw-away on record but live, with Cowan’s brilliant presence, it becomes a killer and looking back, I’m thankful they played it. As a final, the whole ensemble takes the stage for a medley of ”Sign Of The Cross” and ”The Seven Angels”. None of the original featured voices of that track are present here but that’s all for the better, except maybe for Michael Kiske because this bunch really takes these songs to new heights, giving them a new life. How awesome.
Ok, so let’s start with minuses here. First, not one song from the brilliant The Mystery Of Time were played tonight. There are a couple of oldies – and newies too – that could have been removed for a song or two from that album. The first one to go should have been ”Maniac” as it didn’t really made any sense here. It should have been a bonus track on the album as well. Apart from the fact that there are always songs you miss – and I missed some dark, edgy stuff like ”Death Is just A Feeling” or ”The Haunting”, I can’t find anything to complain about. Three hours plus is too long? Nah. If you go see a band and count the opening act, three hours is what you get, more or less. With no opening act, three hours means that you get more of the band you were actually there to see, so I say win win on that. It needs to stated that Tobias Sammet is a magnificent frontman who really knows how to handle a show. Sure, he likes to talk but it only adds to the dynamics of the show, in my book. It was also really nice to see that all involved looked – and acted – like they were having the time of their life. And so did I. If Avantasia is playing anywhere around your city, then don’t miss!